WESTMINSTER — Moving the city's Police Department out of its current quarters and into the former Westminster Auto Parts store may cost $1.2 million, but none of 14 who testified at Monday's public hearing opposed the project.
In fact, they unanimously endorsed it.
"It is time to get the chief and his officers out of the dungeon," said retired state trooper Roy Chiavacci.
Louis Scharon, a former county commissioner, told the mayor and City Council that he had toured the existing facility -- a shared building with the Carroll County YMCA -- last week and determined it was too small, inadequate for the police needs and left the impression the city police force was a "rinky-dink" operation.
About 50 people -- about 10 times the normal attendance -- showed up at the Monday night meeting of the council, which also included the formal presentation of the city's 1993 budget.
Several members of the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office said the cramped police space hinders investigations and cuts productivity.
They said sharing the building with the YMCA, which has office and recreation space upstairs, causes problems.
Lt. Dean Brewer, a detective, said recorded interviews of suspects often have thenoise of bouncing basketballs on them.
Scharon said some important refrigerated evidence needed for a rape trial was ruined when a circuit breaker was accidentally tripped by someone in the YMCA. By the time the police discovered the refrigerator wasn't running, the evidence had been destroyed.
The council seemed receptive to the citizens' comments, and the city's proposed 1993 fiscal year budget -- which totals about $6.6 million -- includes $1.2 million to purchase and renovate the old auto store so police could move in late next year.
The department now has about 5,747 square feet of office space, butplanners estimate it needs more than 11,204. The proposed site has 12,000 square feet.
The formal presentation of the city's 1993 budget followed discussion of the police facility.
The council's budget of $6,566,237 is in addition to a sewer budget of $3,184,098 and water budget $2,573,477.
The city tax rate of 83 cents per $100 of assessed valuation would stay the same. The real property tax should generate about $1.9 million.
The tax bill for a typical home worth about $130,000 would be about $432, though the tax bill will go up for many residents because of increasing assessments.
Councilman Stephen Chapin called it a "conservative" budget and said city residentsalso face a 5 percent increase in the water rates.
The council will conduct a hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. Monday at East Middle School.